Category Archives: Max Wigram Gallery

Jose Dávila’s ‘Shadow As Rumour’ at the Max Wigram Gallery, London.

Jose Dávila’s initial training as an architect shapes his practice, informed by the histories of art, design and urban space. At the Max Wigram Gallery, he takes photographs of Dan Flavin’s lighting strip sculptures and cuts out the lights themselves leaving empty voids within the photographic print. Sculptural arrangements in space are thus reduced to the flat page and then excised from the image. The viewer sees the ambient light and colour emitted from the original sculptures but their once solid forms are now absent. The space is filled by underlying white paper within the frame. ‘Topologies of Light’, 2013, comprises 18 individual images of different works by Flavin, arranged as a composite piece across the wall. Together, the photographs form a frame around an empty space. The rich, ambient hues of Flavin’s sculptures remain seductive, but Dávila disrupts the logic with his interventions. Where the light strips took physical form, we now look directly at a void more glaring than the original electrical beams.
‘Shadow As Rumour’ departs from altered representations of pre-existing artworks. Now Dávila constructs his own sculpture using a Mobius strip, resembling a figure of 8 placed on its side. We encounter a linear obstruction running diagonally across the room. Instead of geometric and mathematical perfection, this object is rickety and meandering. It twists awkwardly as steel arms slot together forming rough joints. These breaks are articulated in varying colours of green, yellow and black like a syntax. This infinite loop hesitates and stalls as if it were a faltering machine. The prospect of smooth and flowing curves is interrupted and sets up the metaphor of imperfect systems. ‘Shadow As Rumour’ runs as a narrow and even fragile loop hovering between monumentality and doubt.
This interrogation of histories is now a familiar enquiry among contemporary artists looking over their shoulder in order to plot a course into the future. There’s a risk here of repeating a wider engagement with the past that begins to feel rather introspective though the adaptation of Flavin’s light works has some audacious flair raising interesting questions around quotation and comprehension. But it’s Dávila’s invented, rambling sculpture that is the star of the show.

FOS’ The Watchmaker at Max Wigram

The word ‘Storage’ printed on the door of the gallery establishes the concept of a warehouse for the new series of work by FOS, otherwise known as the Danish artist, Thomas Paulsen. Predicated on the notion that the arena for exhibiting, promoting and selling art has moved from the commercial gallery to the art fair, FOS has turned the Max Wigram gallery into a transitional holding facility.  We are entering a physical space whose raison d’etre has apparently been made redundant by market forces.
Through the entrance, on the right, a vitrine of antique pocket watches implies the site of a pawnbroker or museum store.  The cultural and functional status of these objects is wholly disrupted in such an ambivalent physical site.
Visitors then pass up a ramp into a room panelled with cheap, painted wood. Objects here resemble artworks embodying various historic and stylistic concerns. A geometric relief appears to be made of cut and polished marble mounted in a brass frame but is actually shaped out of moulded salt. While employing the formal language of modernism, this piece eludes value, beyond the visual joke. Along the same wall hangs another vitrine contains a ‘primitive’mask, a biomorphic relief and a series of stacked cubes. Again, reference to art history is explicit.
The signature work ‘stored’ here is the ‘Watchmaker’ an awkward assemblage of cast botanical branches and geometric abstract heads mashing together styles, material, process and form. This strategic disorientation is again quite entertaining but ultimately rather dissatisfying. Such critique of commodification is well established but feels contrived and clumsy here.
Most problematic is a meandering film shown on a screen whose rear support becomes a sculptural presence in it’s own right. Made in Svarlbard within the arctic circle, the film follows a solitary hunter with a gun slung over his shoulder heading out into a snowy, wilderness. Sometimes, shots appear of supermarkets and other urban sites. A soundtrack of a narrator’s voice further disrupts integration.
Within this installation masquerading as a group of disconnected art works randomly trapped together in transit to another destination, there is little sense here of a genuine critical position being taken. FOS adopts a witty premise for his exhibition and it is adroitly mounted. However, there is little of theoretical or formal interest to take away from this stage set.